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ID 32086
file
title alternative
A Broken Picture of Fidelman in Pictures of Fidelman
creator
NDC
English and American literature
abstract
Bernard Malamud regards his seventh book, Pictures of Fidelman, as a novel. Though five of the six stories were first published in various magazines as short stories, and each has its own plot and uses its own material, background, and style, Malamud apparently made efforts to unite the six stories by using an overall plot of degradation, atonement, and redemption. This design is reflected in the appearances of Susskind, whose important role in the book is to act as a mental guide for Fidelman, and also in the surrealistic quality of the styles to indicate the breakdown of Fidelman's moral responsibility to the society.

Unfortunately, however, the stories contradict each other on a deeper level. In the first three stories, both Fidelman and the author treat reality and art on an equal and correlative basis, and the author does not definitely show the limitations of Fidelman's ability of either art or life. When Fidelman learns a better life as a man, he produces a better art, so that there are possibilities for Fidelman to achieve the best of art, by way of achieving the best of life. These first three stories also seem to require Fidelman to give up physical and material joys for moral perfection. That is because the people who guide Fidelman in these stories are so ambivalent that Fidelman turns out to be a sucker, a schlemiel, when he takes their advice. The more he gains morally, the more he loses materially ; and it is apparent that the author does not allow Fidelman to accept an easy life with the common sense to survive, but demands that he keep up with the high ideal to challenge the limitations of human beings for mental fulfillment.

In the latter three stories, on the other hand, Fidelman disagrees with the author and thinks art is not life. He gives priority to art and sacrifices everything to paint a good picture, while the author defines Fidelman's limitations as an artist and asks him to give up his artistic ambition in order to attain a better life as a man. There is no possibility that Fidelman can become a good artist as well as a good man. It is also clear that if Fidelman learns how to live, he is no longer a schlemiel but a decent man, because the moral people who guide him in these latter stories know how to enjoy life physically and materially as well as mentally and spiritually. In these latter stories, therefore, the author accepts the limitations of life. And here, hard efforts to overcome limitations are regarded as the futile zeal of the fool.

The discrepancies between the first three stories and the second three stories indicate changes in the author's attitudes towards life. They are such serious changes, and split the character of Fidelman so widely, that though Malamud wanted the book to be a novelistic whole, and though some stories are excellent, Pictures of Fidelman is a failure as a united work.
journal title
Studies in American Literature
issue
Issue 26
start page
67
end page
75
date of issued
1990-06-01
publisher
中・四国アメリカ文学会
issn
0388-0176
ncid
language
jpn
nii type
Journal Article
HU type
Journal Articles
DCMI type
text
format
application/pdf
text version
publisher
department
Graduate School of Letters